Yesterday yours truly went shorebirding in the Lake Calumet area, a sort-of industrial wasteland that still has some good marsh/wetland habitat if the water levels are right. The most shocking sight of the day (well, probably second most shocking) was the large herd of...well, goats, that were munching away on top of one of the closed landfills along Stony Island. There have been dozens of birders in that area this summer, and I can't believe no one has mentioned a herd of goats! (Note to our foreign readers: There ain't no goats in Chicago.)
Finally, someone mentioned these goats on IBET (the Illinois birding listserve) yesterday, and I actually stumbled onto an explanation in a story about the southeast side in this morning's Chicago Tribune:
Other wildlife spotted by the tourists included coyote, deer, geese and, most improbably, a herd of goats at the Paxton Landfill, a 170-foot mountain of debris that closed in the early 1990s.
The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency had been trying to restore the area by maintaining vegetation, but the steepness of the slopes made it impossible to bring in equipment to cultivate.Enter Mary Stowe of Wilmington.
Since May, Stowe has been hired to see if goats could do the job of lawnmowers. So far, the herd has shown no appetite for the native prairie grasses, preferring instead to munch on weeds and thistles.
The observers delighted in the sight of 64 critters descending over the landfill. After a day of some grimness, it was the perfect finale.
So there you have it. The mystery of the Lake Calumet goats has been solved. I feel like Scooby-Doo.